I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 216 together.
My Department is committed to ensuring that a highly skilled, motivated and efficient workforce is in place to meet its ongoing and continually evolving business needs. One of the goals outlined in my Department's current Statement of Strategy is to continue to develop a highly skilled, diverse and gender balanced workforce and to support a positive working environment for all that provides equality of opportunity and career opportunities.
There are 3,227 (Full time equivalent) employees in my Department working in various locations nationwide and the workforce comprises of a number of specialist grades in addition to the standard civil service grades.
There is a dedicated Procurement Unit comprising of nine staff within my Department which is led by the Head of Finance Division. This Unit develops, disseminates, monitors and enforces Procurement Policy and provides advice to staff on Procurement matters. They also avail of the expertise of the staff of the Office of Government Procurement, as appropriate.
I can confirm that Public Procurement in my Department is undertaken as needs arise in line with relevant legislation, policy and public procurement guidelines.
Whilst staff in my Department are not obliged to provide details of their professional qualifications, I can confirm they are encouraged and supported in developing, refreshing and augmenting their knowledge and skills. As part of the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS), each staff member completes a Learning and Development Plan at the beginning of the year. In addition the Civil Service Refund of Academic Fees Scheme provides an opportunity for staff to pursue third level professional educational programmes relevant to their work area. Professional membership fees in respect of two staff members have been paid by my Department to two of the organisations listed in recent years.
I am confident that staff in my Department are equipped to provide our customers and stakeholders with a high level of service delivery in the area of procurement, within the broader scope of driving a dynamic Agri-Food Sector.